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We The People

Hank Willis Thomas (American, born 1976). We The People, 2015. Decommissioned prison uniforms mounted on Sintra, 74 x 90 inches (188 x 228.6 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2016 (2016:17). © Hank Willis Thomas. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Image courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

© Hank Willis Thomas

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Hank Willis Thomas

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Hank Willis Thomas

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Hank Willis Thomas

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

Hank Willis Thomas

American, born 1976

We The People, 2015

decommissioned prison uniforms mounted on Sintra

support: 74 x 90 inches (187.96 x 228.6 cm); framed: 76 1/2 x 92 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (194.31 x 234.95 x 6.35 cm)

Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Gift of Mrs. George A. Forman, by exchange, 2016

2016:17

More Details

Inscriptions

no inscriptions

Provenance

the artist;
Jack Shainman Gallery, New York;
sold to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, June 21, 2016

Class

Textile art

Work Type

Fabric art (visual work)

This information may change due to ongoing research. Glossary of Terms

In his work, Hank Willis Thomas often examines the way blackness is represented and shaped by mass media. To make We The People, Thomas deconstructed old striped prison uniforms—a staple of television shows, movies, and other works of pop culture—and remade them into a quilt that spells out the phrase “We the People,” the first words of the preamble of the United States Constitution. These uniforms transform the individuals who wear them into an anonymous mass separated from the rest of the population. By taking them apart, Thomas questions the collectivity associated with the phrase “We the People”: Does its vision of universal rights apply to everyone in today’s America? 

In 2016, Thomas co-founded the political action committee For Freedoms, which aims to use art to encourage discussions about social issues across America. “I believe that the more voices that feel compelled to speak out against injustice, the better,” the artist has explained. “The question for me is, ‘How do we find new and innovative ways to respond and call out when we are oversaturated with image, music, text designed to distract and nullify us?’ I’m still in search of answers.”

Label from We the People: New Art from the Collection, October 23, 2018–July 21, 2019

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